The number of cases of COVID-19 seems to be on a steep rise in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, where the number of positive test results has jumped from a single case two weeks ago to at least 32 on September 2. According to the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec, the rate of infection in the region is now among the highest in the province at 130.7 cases per 100,000.
As the fourth wave of the pandemic continues to swell, the Montérégie-Ouest Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO) has deployed mobile vaccination clinics in several municipalities over the past few weeks in order to reach as much of the population as possible. As a result, vaccination coverage in the Haut-Saint-Laurent has been increasing steadily. “Ideally, we would like to see a 100 per cent vaccination coverage rate, but we are happy with the progress and will continue our efforts,” says Catherine Brousseau, an information and external communications officer with the CISSSMO.
As of August 29, the vaccination rate for the total population of the Haut-Saint-Laurent was 71.1 per cent for a first dose, while 65.7 per cent of the total population is now considered to be adequately protected after having received two doses.
Brousseau confirms that the mobile clinics have been popular, and that the vaccination teams have administered many first doses. “We are generally able to meet the targets we have set for each day,” she says. Most of the mobile clinics were equipped with the Pfizer vaccine, and an average of around 108 doses were administered per day.
Brousseau says the CISSSMO will re-evaluate the program based on vaccine coverage rates over the next few weeks, while the mobile teams shift to focus on school immunization programs during the early fall.
Full support from NFSB
“We certainly support the vaccination campaign,” says Rob Buttars, the director general of the New Frontiers School Board, who is encouraging all secondary and adult vocational students to get their vaccinations, as well those who are eligible at the elementary school level.
The NFSB worked with the CISSSMO last spring to arrange transport to vaccination centres for students attending local schools. Buttars confirmed in an email sent to all NFSB families on August 26 that mobile vaccination clinics will be established at both Chateauguay Valley Regional High School and Howard S. Billings High School during the week of September 7. Students at CVR will be able to roll up their sleeves on Friday, September 10. Buttars says the NFSB will continue to collaborate with the CISSSMO and is prepared to help once again when a vaccine is approved for students under 12 years old.
In his communication with NFSB families, Buttars reiterated that while plans were in place for the start of the school year, a number of clarifications have yet to be finalized. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced on August 24 that masks will be mandatory as of Grade 1 in nine Quebec regions, including the Montérégie. “We want to start the school year in a prudent manner,” said Roberge, while admitting the situation far from ideal.
“It is going to help us to avoid classroom closures,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the national director for public health, while explaining that students will be considered at low risk should a classmate test positive for the virus so long as they have all been wearing masks.
The spread of the highly contagious Delta variant is behind many recent government decisions, including those around mask-wearing, as well as the introduction of a vaccination passport mandating Quebecers show proof of vaccination before accessing non-essential services. The passport went into effect on September 1, with a two-week period of grace before it will be enforced. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of the virus in circulation, with over 259 cases confirmed in the Montérégie.